OUTDOOR BASICS

How to Survive Being Lost in The Woods: Tips and tricks

Survive being lost in the woods
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Hiking can be a lot of fun, but like all outdoor activities, it comes with a few risks that you need to be aware of. The most dangerous of those risks is getting lost. It happens to even the most experiences outdoorsmen and hikers, so it pays to know how to survive being lost in the woods. And that’s what we’re going to teach you.

It may be possible to survive out in the woods with no preparation, as long as you have the right knowledge on what to look for. Sometimes in life, things may be unpredictable and if you happened to be lost in the woods one day, do keep in mind that there will always be a way to survive. We’re here to teach you a few tips and tricks to help you with that!

Even skillful hunters or hikers may get lost along the way, so it doesn’t hurt to have the knowledge necessary to survive being lost in the woods. Finding your way back may take hours and for some, it could even take days. It’s good to stay calm and find a way to survive while you’re still thinking of ways to get out of the woods.

Before Entering The Woods

You should always bring a bag with all the necessities with you wherever you are going. It’s always best to have things prepared. Not that you’re going to expect something bad to happen, but we’re just saying that it’s best to “bring an umbrella with you just in case it rains.” Get the idea, fellow survivors?

Lost in wilderness

It’s always good to be prepared for all types of situations to prevent getting injured and most importantly, to be able to survive while you’re in the woods. Surviving in the woods requires patience and a few tips from this article to act as a guide!

We encourage all hikers and hunters to always do their research before they start a journey into the woods. Get to know the flora and fauna to eliminate chances of getting infected by the little insects and plants in the woods. Coming into contact with toxic plants and animals can not only be bothersome, but it can be come life-threatening if left untreated.

To give you a few tips on what to bring, have a look at what we think is best to bring with you. We called this the “emergency kit,” with all the essentials to help you when an emergency event arises. To be able to bring a kit with all the essentials, you need to know what to pack to take care of any situation that arises.

Essentials

Fellow survivors, let us share our tips on what kind of things you should be bringing along in your emergency kit.

Wilderness Essentials

The emergency kit needs to include:

  • Mini first-aid kit: any injuries, including a cut or maybe a scraped knee, will require a plaster or a band aid stop it from bleeding. Your first-aid should include an adhesive tape, triangular bandages, antiseptic cream, plastic bags, scissors and tweezers. These can all be purchased from your local pharmacy.
  • Lighter: yes, you bet! Let’s face it, not all of us knows how to start a fire, and it’s best to have a lighter on standby whenever we need it, especially when we’re in need of it, such as when the sun is setting and we need to see our surroundings. For the best windproof lighter, check out our article review to learn more.
  • Flashlight + Extra batteries: still looking for a path to continue walking towards your way out? You’ll need a flashlight with you for that. Don’t forget to bring along extra batteries just in case you’ve run out of battery life for that portable flashlight of yours. You can’t afford for that to happen in emergency cases as the jungle gets dark at night, a normal human being will not be able to see anything and that can lead to serious injuries.
  • Water: yes, we know its heavy to bring along a big bottle of water, but still, its recommended! A bottle of purified water would be great to quench your thirst as you can never find purified water in the woods!
  • Dehydrated food: how about some crackers, bread, sardines, tuna or fruits? Bring out all the available dehydrated food from your bag and make a meal with what you have! Dehydrated food can last a very long time in your backpack, so you don’t have to worry about any of it spoiling. Making a meal out of the dehydrated food that you’ve been carrying can lift your spirits when you’ve been wandering around in the woods for hours on end. Some say it’s always fun to eat with your friends while starting a campfire on the side. Besides that, you can also try out a few campfire recipes.
  • Whistle: you might need it when you’re in need of asking for help. Shouting can only do so much, and can be muffled by the trees. A whistle is more high-pitched and easier to hear, even through the thickest foliage.
  • Knife: for catching your food and to protect yourself. You can easily cut the plants with a knife or any other food that you may have found in the woods. During emergency situations when you may need a weapon for protection, having a knife on standby will definitely help to keep you safe.
  • Compass: the first thing to use when you’re lost in the woods! Compasses point to magnetic North, so if you remember which way you came from, you can find your way back more easily. Couple this with a map, and you’ll be out of the woods in no time. See our article on how to adjust compass declination for more insight.
  • Toilet paper: an ultimate essential item to hiking or camping in the woods. Make sure you have quality biodegradable soap for more earth-friendly options.
  • Hat & socks: During the night in the woods, it’ll start to become colder and when body heat escapes your body especially through your feet and your head, to keep yourself warm, bring along a hat and a pair of socks for warmth and comfort.
  • Sleeping bag: in case you’ll be staying the night in the woods, you’ll need this for a better night’s sleep. Most sleeping bags are also waterproof, so it can double as a shelter when it’s raining if unzipped all the way around. Check out the Nemo Sonic sleeping bag for a more comfortable sleep – see our earlier article on this topic.

What to Do When You’re Lost

It’s devastating when facing such an unfortunate situation. Even the most skilled hikers and hunters get lost now and again, so it pays to stay calm, keep a clear head, and remember what needs to be done.

The first thing we’re likely to think of when we’re lost is to grab our mobile phones and calling the people in our contact lists. To our disappointment, there’s no wi-fi and there’s a horrible reception in the woods. Oh no! The signals are non-existent.

Take Control of the Situation and Stay Calm

This is when you should be taking out your compass and start using it to find a way out.

Take Control of the Situation and Stay Calm

Panicking would never solve anything. The best way to face a difficult situation is to stay calm and try to take control of your current situation. Ask yourself these questions and think calmly:

  • Where do you think you are?
  • What do you have with you?
  • How long will it be till the sun goes down?
  • What kind of condition are you in?

All the answers to these questions will help to survive. Don’t ever put yourself in the worst situation. The last thing you can do is to think negatively, since that won’t help! Start thinking calmly of what steps to take next and plan your move.

Where can we find water?

The ultimate goal to being a survivor in the woods is not only to focus on how to find a way out, but finding enough water to keep yourself hydrated. You’re going to do a lot of walking, especially during the daylight hours, and that’s going to make you hot and thirsty.

According to most reports, a person can’t survive without water for more than 3 days as our body will become severely dehydrated. First, look for a source of safe drinking water. Collect rainwater if it’s necessary, but if you can find a river, that’ll be a bonus. Never drink from standing pools of water.

Focus and pay good attention to the sound of flowing water. You will be able to hear the sound of the flowing water or water droplets. Usually if there is a place with a great density of plants, that’s where you’re most likely to find water.

Standing pool of water in woods

If you can’t find any water, you can always use the condensation process to help you accumulate enough water to drink. A empty plastic bag is pretty useful as you can use it to create solar water still for water collection.

Dig up a hole in the soil and place a container in the hole. If there is no container available in your own bag, use the plastic bag instead. You’ll have to then use wet moss and leaves to fill in the gaps around the plastic bag or container. This process is when condensation occurs and water will be formed during the process.

With any water that you collect, it’s a good idea to boil it first before drinking so that you can remove any impurities that could otherwise make you sick.

Making a Meal

Take out your cups and your bottle of water. Keep yourself hydrated. This is the key to surviving in the woods. If you do not know how to start a fire, take out a lighter from your bag, find a few sticks and rocks and light it up. If you don’t have a lighter, there are several ways you can start a fire from scratch, such as rubbing two sticks together or having a magnifying glass to get some kindling going.

With all the dehydrated food in your bag well-prepared and ready, you can start making your campfire meals out of all the dehydrated food you’ve brought along. You will definitely feel relief after knowing that you are well-prepared for these type of situations by having an emergency kit when you’re in the woods.

Find Shelter

After all the long hours of trying to find a way out, the sun has gone down and you need to start looking for shelter. There’s an easy to way to create your own outdoor shelter.

Find Shelter

Look for large branches from pine trees and start making your own roof. Bend the saplings over and tie them with a rope or a vine to make them more sturdy. Add large sticks along each side for the shelter. Use dry tinder to create an insulation for the shelter. However, if you’re out in the woods during the snowy weather, the snow is a great insulator.

How to Start a Fire

There are a few ways to start a fire. Take out the knife from your emergency kit and scratch the blade on a rock to create sparks, which can easily start some dried brush or moss. For more tips on how to start a fire, see our earlier article on this.

Also, you can use your lighter if you’ve brought it along. In case you’ve forgotten to bring your lighter with you or your fuel has run out, you should be looking for sticks and some dry leaves. The fire can be started when there is friction between the sticks, that is, you rub the sticks together to create a friction.

Paying Attention to the Plants

If you’ve got the chance to study about flora and fauna, the knowledge would be put to good use here.

Poison ivy in the woods

But if you’ve haven’t known much about it, there are some poisonous plants here that you should be aware of:

  1. Mistletoe: white berries
  2. Poison ivy: has shiny leaves in groups of three
  3. Thorns
  4. Water Hemlock: umbrella-shaped flowers
  5. Mushrooms
  6. Plants that taste bitter or soapy

See also: Edible Snails: How to Survive in the Wild by Eating Them

Protect Yourself

Always have your weapons with you for protection. Stay away from bushy areas, tall grass and branches that are hanging. Try to stay in the centre of the trails. It’s also a good idea to wear long clothing in order to minimize the chances of being bitten by ticks, as lyme disease is known to be spread by infected back-legged ticks.

They’re prevalent in areas where there are deer and other rodents. Ensure that your legs and ankles and protected by wearing a pair of high top and close-toed shoes. Wear a long-sleeve shirt instead of a short-sleeve shirt if the weather is not too hot.

Predators

Being lost in the woods may be the worst situation to be in, but you should stay alert to the fact that there could be predators in the woods and they are dangerous. Bring your weapons with you wherever you are headed for protection.

Bear In The Woods

One of the most dangerous predators you can face is bears. Be it black bears or grizzly bears, keep your distance and avoid contact with these bears. Do not speak loudly or scream when you see them. Do not even think of running as it may encourage them to chase you. Stay calm and try to not show any signs of fear while keeping your distance.

Making Your Own Weapon

Forgot to bring your weapon with you into the woods? You can make your own weapon by looking for stones or rocks that has a smooth glassy surface. Look for a stone and use it to chip off pieces to make the edge sharp.

Another way to make your own weapon would be to look for more branches, a hard and solid branch would do. If you have a knife with you, you can carve the tip of the branch into a sharp point that is sharp enough for stabbing.

Seeking Help

Do not walk and scream for help, as this can use up a lot of your energy and only makes you panic. Do not go looking for help during the night time as it is more dangerous when you’re looking for a way out during the dark hours.

In the woods

Instead of panicking, you should look for a river and move downstream to find a way to get help. There is a higher chance of finding civilization this way. And while you’re waiting for people to come rescue you, you’re going to be able to conserve your energy and stay hydrated.

Use your whistle. Especially when the searchers are near you, they’ll be able to locate you and get near you when they hear your sound of whistle.

A smoky fire can also draw attention to your plight. Pilots are always aware of what is happening around their surroundings. If they are able to see a smoky fire from far above, they should be able to get there to find out what has happened. They may not be able to rescue you immediately, but they will definitely be able to contact others and get help.

Keep in mind that panicking will never help reduce or solve anything. You want to be saved, you need to create signals so that they can look for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Foster

Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.